History of Occupational Therapy in Sweden​

In the 19th century occupational therapy, as it was later to be called, was used mainly in mental institutions. By and by it came to be applied in most hospitals and for most patients. In 1940 occupational therapy began being used for patients with war injuries.

In 1944 the first course in occupational therapy was started by the Red Cross hospital at the initiative of Countess Estelle Bernadotte (pdf). The first Swedish Association for Occupational Therapists was formed at the end of this course. The nursing policies that increased the demand for OTs in this country were:

  • The changed views on people with handicaps
  • The increasing need to use all available manpower
  • The problem with care for chronic invalids, and
  • The increasing amount of senior citizens

In 1948 a nine-month-long education for OTs was started in Stockholm followed the next year by a two-year education in Gothenburg. In 1951 a group of 40 OTs from different parts of the world who were attending a congress in Stockholm, held by the International Society for the Welfare of Cripples (now Rehabilitation International) decided to investigate the possibility to form an international organisation for occupational therapy. In 1952 the World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT) was inaugurated in Liverpool.

In 1965 the first three-year OT education, initiated by the Swedish Parliament, was started. In 1977 the education was elevated to institutes of higher education, and in 1993 university studies were introduced.

The joint professional association and trade union of today was created in 1979 and is playing an important role in the decisions made by the Government and ministries regarding the occupational therapy profession in Sweden.

Since 1999 Swedish occupational therapists are recognized by the National Board of Health and Welfare.